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Helen Todd is co-founder and CEO of Sociality Squared and the human behind Creativity Squared.
Sara Horowitz is the founder of the Freelancers Union and the Freelancers Insurance Company, and currently building the Mutualist Society.

Ep15. Sara Horowitz: Build the A.I. Future We Want with Mutualism

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Ep15. Crisis of Imagination: How to Build the A.I. Future We Want with Mutualism from Freelancers Union Founder Sara Horowitz

In the fifteenth episode of Creativity Squared, lifelong mutualist Sara Horowitz joins us for an enlightening, incisive, and thought-provoking discussion at the intersection of A.I., labor movements, and the power of community-driven change. 

“I am not going to underestimate the power of decentralization and coordination and integration and cooperation.”

Sara Horowitz

A visionary in the world of labor advocacy and mutualism, Sara has been involved with unions since age eighteen, a career which has included work with the UAW, CSEA, SEIU, and her current position of the board of the Alber Shanker Institute. As the founder of The Freelancers Union, a New York City nonprofit, Sara guided groundbreaking initiatives like the Portable Benefits Network and the Freelancers Insurance Company, championing the well-being of freelancers.

A labor lawyer, former chair of the board of the New York Federal Reserve, and recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship, Sara’s tireless efforts have led to her pivotal role in reshaping the labor economy, culminating in the passage of the Freelance Isn’t Free Act. She has also earned numerous accolades, from the Echoing Green Fellowship to being named one of the World Economic Forum’s 100 Global Leaders for Tomorrow.

Throughout her work, Sara champions the significance of mutualism, the doctrine of mutual dependence as a necessity to individual and collective social well-being. Sara is currently working to build the Mutualist Society. She is also the author of the book “Mutualism: Building the Next Economy from the Ground Up,” in which she writes about how we need to build our next safety net in America through the local organizations we know and trust. Mutualism exists in 4 principal areas: unions, cooperatives, mutual aid groups, and faith-based institutions, which we is explored more in this episode.

Sara’s resilience, innovation, and unwavering commitment to creating a more equitable and inclusive labor landscape give her a timely and valuable perspective on the present moment, when technology is rapidly reshaping industries and economies. 

“We have to change our whole paradigm around conceptions of growth and time.”

Sara Horowitz

In today’s episode, you’ll learn more about the historical context of labor movements and how they relate to today’s culture, including the current writers’ and actors’ strikes. Sara shares her thoughts on the future of technology, including A.I. and DAOs (or decentralized autonomous organizations), and how we can harness this technology from a mutualistic approach that centers on collectivism, community, and building collaboratively. Explore Sara’s vision of embracing a mutualistic future that can bring about positive societal change and a better way forward.

A Paradigm Shift in Labor Movements

At the heart of our discussion is the recent writer’s and actor’s strikes, and the potential strikes looming in various other industries. Sara points out that while we are in the midst of a turbulent summer of labor unrest, there’s a silver lining to the story. With a Biden administration that strongly supports labor, the time is ripe for a paradigm shift in how we approach labor movements. Sara emphasizes the need for labor to evolve, just as it did during the Great Depression when new labor groups emerged to counter the challenges of the time.

“Just like when the government in the 1930s, confronted by massive worker organization and coming out of a depression, could figure out how to do it, we know how to do it. That’s not the hard part. It’s getting it done.”

Sara Horowitz

Sara acknowledges the historical context in which industries like steel, auto, and garment once thrived, underscoring the pressing need for a nuanced approach to globalization and active political engagement. While globalization offers undeniable benefits, it’s essential to strike a balance that ensures sustainable economic practices and builds collective understanding that our choices today shape the future of work and ownership. 

According to Sara, this is an opportune moment for the labor movement to evolve and transcend its historical paradigms, fostering an environment where new labor groups can flourish and challenge the status quo.

Redefining Work and Growth

The topic of A.I. evokes a range of emotions, from excitement to fear. These sentiments are understandable, but it’s also worth recognizing that A.I. is a tool built by humans. 

In this context, Sara highlights the need for a deeper connection between politics and technology, urging us to make conscious decisions about what we build and how we use it. 

“The truly revolutionary act right now is to just be a human being and be okay with that. You’re not lazy, you’re not unproductive.”

Sara Horowitz

As we delved into the evolving nature of work, Sara’s insights shed light on a critical aspect of our modern dilemma. She highlighted the fallacy of the “productivity trap,” where the promise of increased efficiency often leads to overwork rather than more leisure time. Sara’s imagines a future where individuals centers themselves, fostering a mutualist world that values human connection, well-being, and sustainability.

Community, Patient Capital, and Building a New Economy

The conversation takes an inspiring turn when we discuss the potential resurgence of community collectivism. Sara’s exploration of mutualism, an economic philosophy centered around cooperation and shared ownership, offers a sense of hope and possibility. She urges us to envision a future where people come together to create cooperatives, support local businesses, and foster genuine human connections. 

“Don’t be afraid of the big ideas. Don’t let anybody tell you not to go that way, because that is the way that will keep us human.”

Sara Horowitz

Sara introduces the concept of “patient capital,” a strategic approach to funding that supports sustainable initiatives and community-driven projects. She points out that patient capital isn’t just for the social sector; it’s a tool that can drive positive change across various industries, an opportunity for businesses and communities alike to embrace the potential. 

By encouraging foundations to utilize program-related investments and advocating for strategic procurement, we can create an economy that prioritizes long-term well-being over short-term gains.

Building a Mutualist A.I. Future

As our conversation comes to a close, Sara leaves us with a powerful call to action. She urges individuals to embrace conviviality, take a step back from the relentless hustle, and find strength in being human. In a world driven by technology, the seemingly simple act of reconnecting with our essence has the potential to spark transformative change. 

“Start from a place of feeling strong, and know that there’s nothing that you can’t start.”

Sara Horowitz

Sara Horowitz’s insights and passion for mutualism leave us with a profound sense of possibility. The world is changing rapidly, and the impact of A.I. on labor and society is a central concern. But Sara’s message of building a mutualist future offers a ray of hope. 

By embracing community and redefining the way we approach work and technology, we can pave the way for a more sustainable, inclusive, and human-centered economy.

To delve deeper into the principles of mutualism, explore Sara Horowitz’s book, “Mutualism: Building the Next Economy from the Ground Up.” But, as Sara stresses, just don’t order it on Amazon! (As Sara says, “Bad labor practices.”)

Bottom line: Change is inevitable, but mutualism offers a path forward that reminds us of our shared humanity and the incredible potential that lies within our collective efforts. 

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Thank you, Sara, for being our guest on Creativity Squared. 

This show is produced and made possible by the team at PLAY Audio Agency: https://playaudioagency.com.  

Creativity Squared is brought to you by Sociality Squared, a social media agency who understands the magic of bringing people together around what they value and love: http://socialitysquared.com.

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